Thailand voters approve new constitution News
Thailand voters approve new constitution

[JURIST] Roughly 70 percent of voters casting ballots in Thailand Sunday approved the interim military-supported government's proposed new constitution [JURIST report; draft text, PDF], which will replace the country's 1997 charter. Interim Prime Minister Surayud Chulanont [BBC profile], who came to power after last September's military coup [JURIST report], had urged voters to participate in the referendum, calling it a way for the people to assert their rights and help decide Thailand's future. Anti-coup activists and supporters of deposed former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra [BBC profile], however, said the new constitution decreases populist influence and transfers more power to bureaucrats and the military. About 60 percent of eligible voters participated in the referendum.

Under the new constitution, Thai prime ministers will be limited to two terms in office and will be subject to easier impeachment. The Thai House of Representatives will be reduced from 500 seats to 400 seats, 320 of which will be directly elected and 80 appointed from party lists. Direct elections for members of the Senate will be abolished, with national and provisional committees composed of bureaucrats and judicial officials instead appointing the 150 senators. The constitution will possibly pave the way for general elections in December. BBC News has more.